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Advisers expect more regulatory focus on vulnerable customers

Research from Just Group shows that the majority of intermediary firms expect the FCA to supervise the identification and treatment of vulnerable customers within the next five years.

In total, 26 per cent financial intermediary firms asked said that they strongly agreed with the statement and 39 per cent agreed, a sum of 65 per cent. Just 3 per cent said they strongly disagreed, while the remainder held no opinion.

The research was conducted prior to and for Just Group’s annual summit, in which the firm discusses a different industry issue each year.

The paper builds on the FCA’s own consumer vulnerability paper, published in late February 2015. Just Group says that it expects new guidance to be issued later this year.

Further insight gleaned from Just Group’s paper is that, when asked how many consumers firms has identified as vulnerable on their systems, 26 per cent replied that there were less than 1 per cent, and 26 per cent more replied that there were between 1 per cent and 5 per cent.

The FCA’s own numbers, however, suggest that up to 50 per cent of customers may come under this category.

Just Group communications director Stephen Lowe says: “In part [this discrepancy] reflects the scale of the issue and the diverse range who are potentially vulnerable, encompassing people with mental and physical health issues, low financial capability, those who have experienced divorce or bereavement, or even some groups such as those with an addiction or ex-offenders.

“Adding to the complexity is that vulnerability may be permanent or temporary and customers may not see even themselves as vulnerable or be reluctant to disclose relevant information.

“We found most firms are reliant on frontline staff to identify vulnerable customers, but this is a big ask because, however highly trained, they are by no means experts in diagnosis.”

Lowe goes on to adds that, “Clearly we are at the start of a journey that is likely to be long and difficult.”

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